Here’s what you can learn at the free Research Data Management Library Academy

From the practical to the strategic, RDM Library Academy offers free online course for librarians and researchers

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Data management is an increasingly important part of a researcher’s role, and it may often seem like yet another thing to deal with. However, help is at hand. You may not be aware of the role your library can play in research data management; it’s something you can ask them about, and you can even get involved in building their capabilities in this area. Whether you’re looking to raise the profile of data management or explore how tools like Python can help deliver RDM in a practical way, the library should be of use.

The possibility of harnessing the expertise of librarians sparked the creation of the Research Data Management Library Academy (RDMLA), a free online professional development program for librarians and researchers.

Rebecca Morin, MLIS, MASRebecca “Becky” Morin, Head of Research & Instruction for Hirsh Health Sciences Library at Tufts University, explained how the RDMLA came about:

A group of librarians – myself included – came together with Elsevier and the Simmons University School of Library Science to address an acknowledged gap we saw in our own institutions, as well as in people coming out of library school and looking for new positions. New librarians and those who were already in posts wanted to have a more developed role in the world of research data management. But many felt unprepared to offer those services, or to participate fully in the discussions around it.

Primarily it’s intended for librarians, but several units are also applicable for researchers. Here, Becky talks about some of the topics:

1. How to get buy-in from your organization

“With the RDMLA, we really wanted to strike a balance between the practical and the strategic,” Becky said. “So whereas one person might want to know how to set up a data repository, another might be looking for advice on how to get all your stakeholders round the table, or how to get the people who allocate the library budget to take research data management seriously.”

Visitors will find a unit on “Advocating and Marketing the Value of RDM,” which covers the process of how to get the right people involved and making the case for RDM. They’ll also find a unit on launching data services, which is about establishing who your key stakeholders are and how you work with them. Those modules are built from the shared experiences of librarians who have gone through this process and generously shared their expertise. Visitors can learn from what worked for them – and what they would have done differently. Becky explained:

One of the things that really comes across in this part of the process is the need for flexibility. You need to be ready to challenge your own mindset as well as other peoples, because if you come into the process with a set idea about what everyone needs to do, it’s not going to work.

The RDMLA curriculum

The RDMLA curriculum consists of the following eight units. Each unit features video lectures, exercises, assessments and additional resources:

  • Unit 1: Foundations of Research Data Management (RDM)
  • Unit 2: Navigating Research Data Culture
  • Unit 3: Advocating and Marketing the Value of RDM in Libraries
  • Unit 4: Launching Data Services in Libraries
  • Unit 5: Project Management and Assessment
  • Unit 6: Overview of Data Analysis and Visualization Tools
  • Unit 7: Overview of Coding Tools
  • Unit 8: Overview of Platform Tools

2. Project management

“When we went through the process of establishing what we needed to include in the RDMLA,” Becky said, “it became clear that there was a real need for instruction on project management. It wasn’t something we’d considered at the very beginning of the process, but the feedback from our audience was clear that this was an area where more information was welcomed.

“When we sat down with the instructors for the various modules, we got into the topic of ‘When you’re launching Research Data Management Services, what causes things to go awry and where do they fail?’ What we saw over and over again is that if you don’t have really good project management principles and you don’t have a system in place to prove the value of a project, then it will struggle to either get off the ground or to become sustainable.”

While many librarians will bring some project management skills to the table, participating in research data management at a deep level will, for some, be the first time they work with such a large group of people, Becky noted:

You’re dealing with the library itself, people in various research faculties, possibly the provost’s office, legal, in-house counsel, and maybe more. There are so many moving parts that it becomes essential to have a project management system.

One of the key elements of this module focuses on assessment, which essentially gives you a framework for measuring success. It looks at what metrics you can use and what the benefits will be for each stakeholder. It helps you show the benefits researchers in the lab will get, what benefits the grant administrators will get, and so forth, and helps you demonstrate success. In this way, it can help secure the long-term future of the project.

3. The power of technology

Topics include developing an understanding of certain coding techniques and the ways researchers might apply them – and what their expectations might be.

“We’re not looking to turn librarians into expert coders,” Becky explained, “but it was important to us to have an element of the RDMLA that equipped people with an understanding of the landscape so they felt comfortable listening to and understanding stakeholder requirements. Along the same lines, you’ll also find modules about facilitating data analysis, and the benefits of and techniques required for good data management.”

Join the Research Data Management Librarian Academy


Written by

Ian Evans

Written by

Ian Evans

Ian Evans is Content Director for Global Communications at Elsevier. Previously, he was Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Global Communications Newsroom. Based in Oxford, he joined Elsevier six years ago from a small trade publisher specializing in popular science and literary fiction.


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